Thursday, March 29, 2012

Eye on Iran: GM Says Peugeot Has 'Suspended' Shipments to Iranian Car Maker

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Top Stories

WSJ: "General Motors Co. said Wednesday that its French partner, PSA Peugeot Citroen SA, has suspended shipments of vehicle components to an Iranian car maker, and that its alliance with Peugeot 'is fully compliant with U.S. law governing trade with Iran.' GM has faced criticism from United Against Nuclear Iran, a group founded by a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., and others opposed to the Iranian regime for agreeing to buy a 7% stake in the French car maker, because Peugeot has in the past supplied parts to Iranian car maker Iran Khodro. GM, in a statement, said 'we have discussed this issue with Peugeot. We understand that they made the decision to suspend the production and shipment of material into Iran some time ago--before we entered into our alliance with them in fact--and have decided to continue with that suspension. Our agreement with them is fully compliant with US law governing trade with Iran, and is not intended to benefit Iran in any way.'"

AFP: "An influential US anti-Iran lobby group on Wednesday called for newly tied General Motors and Peugeot to shut down Peugeot's Iran business due to Tehran's suspect nuclear program. The United Against Nuclear Iran group said GM's new investment in PSA Peugeot Citroen should be investigated to see if it violates US sanctions on Iran, because of Peugeot's strong market position in the country. 'As a working partner and now official stake-owner of Peugeot, GM owes it to its investors and customers to compel Peugeot into ending its business in Iran,' said UANI head Mark Wallace, a former US ambassador to the United Nations. 'By doing business directly with the Iranian regime, Peugeot supports the regime's ability to develop its illegal nuclear weapons program, support terrorist proxies and repress the Iranian people.' He called for a congressional investigation of the auto deal. But GM and Peugeot both said Peugeot had already halted its shipments to Iran of car components used for assembling final vehicles. 'The decision to halt shipments was taken during February for the month of March and renewed for April,' Pierre-Olivier Salmon, spokesman for PSA, told AFP. 'It is a decision taken month by month,' he added."

NYDN: "Public advocate Bill de Blasio is launching a new watchlist on Thursday, but this time he is taking a foreign-policy approach, the Daily News has learned. Building off of an effort to target bad landlords, he's now going after Iran's nuke-hungry regime and companies that do business there. The website - Iran Watchlist - exposes automakers that make a profit in Iran and also have a large market share in the U.S., the mayoral hopeful said. 'We are targeting companies with a undeniable track record of doing business in Iran but who also rely on the U.S. market,' de Blasio said. 'It's time they made a choice.' His website lists the following foreign car companies as turning a profit in Iran: Hyundai, Toyota, Nissan, Kia, Peugeot, Suzuki, Mitsubishi, Isuzu, Fiat, Porsche, Mazda, Renault and Volvo... De Blasio is launching the campaign with Iran 180 and United Against Nuclear Iran - two groups opposed to Iran developing nuclear weaponry. Former U.S. Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, CEO of United Against Nuclear Iran, said the car companies are putting short-term profit ahead of long-term strategic interests. 'All these companies sell products in the United States,' he said. 'You should choose between doing business with us or with Iran.'"

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Nuclear Program

Bloomberg: "Iran's 'workshops' for making nuclear centrifuges and components for the devices are widely dispersed and hidden, adding to the difficulties of a potential military strike by Israel, according to a new report by U.S. congressional researchers. Neither Israel nor the U.S. is certain of the locations of all such facilities, analysts at the Congressional Research Service wrote in the report obtained today. The analysts cited interviews with current and former U.S. government officials familiar with the issue who weren't identified. Israel's capability to halt or set back Iran's nuclear program through a military strike has been central to the debate over whether Israel should undertake such a mission alone. While President Barack Obama has urged more time for economic sanctions to work, Israeli officials led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak say it may soon be too late to prevent Iran from developing the capability to produce a nuclear weapon."

Reuters: "A dramatic expansion in nuclear and military smuggling investigations should lead to a flood of new criminal cases, primarily against Iranian and Chinese middlemen, U.S. law enforcement officials said on Wednesday. U.S. officials said they are investigating 30 percent more cases this year than three years ago. U.S. agencies have deployed agents posing as arms brokers at more than 20 undercover companies targeting smugglers, said the officials, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity. Undercover arms smuggling investigations typically take two to four years to unfold, one of the officials said, which is why he expects an increase in indictments soon. 'We've got some good undercover cases going,' a senior U.S. official said. The new cases also offer insight into one metric for measuring Iran's possible interest in nuclear weapons: They show that Tehran continues to try to acquire 'dual-use' items, products that can be used for both military purposes, such as nuclear weapons, or peaceful ones, the officials said."

Fox News: "Iran and the international community are getting ready for a new round of talks next month aimed at resolving questions surrounding the Islamic Republic's suspected nuclear program. In exclusive interviews with two of the main players in the dispute, Fox News learned firsthand of the hardened differences that remain on this potentially life-and-death matter. Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s Vienna-based nuclear watchdog, says he thinks Iran at the very least is preparing for the possibility of building a nuclear bomb. 'We have information that indicates Iran was engaged in activities relevant to the development of nuclear explosive devices,; Amano told Fox News. But Iran's longtime ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, denies this, telling Fox News that Iran '...has not been pursuing a nuclear weapon' and that his country's nuclear program is aimed only at 'peaceful purposes.' Soltanieh said Iran 'will never, ever suspend our activities, including enrichment' of uranium, which is demanded in U.N. Security Council resolutions and is expected to be on the table in next month's talks."


Reuters: "The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday set additional sanctions against Iranian engineering firms with ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC), which it said has continued to expand its control of the Iranian economy. It also sanctioned individuals and shipping companies with ties to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL). 'By designating the individuals and entities today, Treasury is sending a clear signal to the international community that Iran's attempts to evade international sanctions will not go unnoticed,' Adam Szubin, director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement. The department imposed additional sanctions on Iran Maritime Industrial Company SADRA, which it said has offices in Iran and Venezuela. It said SADRA was owned by Khatam al-Anbiya, an engineering company used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp to fund its operations. It also sanctioned Deep Offshore Technology PJS, which it said was a subsidiary of SADRA. The Revolutionary Guard is a primary focus of U.S. and international sanctions against Iran because of the central role it plays in Iran's missile and nuclear programs, its support for terrorism and its involvement in serious human rights abuses, the department said."

WSJ: "Iran's oil exports appear to have dropped this month as buyers prepare for tough new sanctions, market observers say, and shipments are likely to shrink further if President Barack Obama determines by Friday, as expected, that markets can adjust to fewer barrels of Iranian oil. By the end of March, with three months until a European Union embargo on Iranian oil takes effect, Iran's exports are expected to fall by about 300,000 barrels a day from last month, to 1.9 million barrels daily, a nearly 14% drop, according to Swiss oil-shipping specialist Petro-Logistics SA. More aggressive measures are in the pipeline, U.S. congressional leaders and the EU say. Sanctions intended to bring Iran's nuclear program to heel could eventually leave half of Iran's oil output cut off from international markets, according to analysts and officials. But Iran could hold off on any nuclear compromise, betting that sanctions will push oil prices so high that the country's income will hold steady-while fragile Western economies wrestle with higher energy costs."

Dow Jones: "Turkey's largest mobile phone operator, Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetlera AS, Thursday said it has filed a suit against South Africa's MTN Group Ltd. in the U.S., seeking damages related to the award of a license in Iran. Turkcell alleges the South African company encouraged Pretoria to support Iran's nuclear power development program in 2005, and it claims MTN made improper payments to an Iranian and to a South African government official between 2004 and 2005 to enable the company to secure a license to operate in Iran... The allegations come as MTN's Iranian operation is the target of a U.S. lobby group, which is seeking to persuade foreign businesses to leave Iran. United Against Nuclear Iran in January sent a letter to MTN Chief Executive Sifiso Dabengwa calling for the company to pull out of the country, alleging MTN's technology is being used by Iran's government to locate and track mobile phone users."

Bloomberg: "MTN Group Ltd., Africa's largest wireless operator, bribed officials, arranged meetings between Iranian and South African leaders, and promised Iran weapons and United Nations votes in exchange for a license to provide mobile-phone service in the Islamic Republic, Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri AS alleged in a lawsuit. Turkcell, which initially was awarded the Iranian mobile- phone license, sued its Johannesburg-based rival yesterday in federal court in Washington for $4.2 billion in damages. The suit includes numerous alleged internal MTN memos that detail the company's efforts to win the Iranian business after losing the bid to Turkcell in February 2004."

Reuters: "Japan's imports of oil from Iran fell 27.3 percent in February from a month earlier, customs-cleared data showed on Thursday, as the third-biggest buyer of Iranian crude complied with U.S. demands to curb purchases. The United States last week exempted Japan and 10 EU nations from financial sanctions citing their efforts to significantly cut purchases, while Iran's top customers China and India remain at risk of such steps. Japan cut Iran imports even as its total imports rose 1.8 percent last month on demand for reconstruction and the switching off of all but one of its nuclear reactors following the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster."

Reuters: "A widely expected ban on European insurance cover for Iranian oil exports from July 1 is threatening to curtail shipments and raise costs for major buyers such as Japan and South Korea, insurance industry sources say. Last week the European Union partly exempted some insurers from its embargo on the Iranian oil trade until the start of July and next month EU ministers plan to review whether to extend these waivers. Japan and South Korea have lobbied for exemptions, but insurance and shipping executives say a complete ban now looks likely."

Reuters: "South Korean refiner Hyundai Oilbank is delaying plans for an initial public offer worth up to $2 billion, partly on investor concerns over its links to Iran, sources said, the second big Asian IPO to be snagged by Western sanctions against Tehran. Hyundai Oilbank, a heavy user of Iranian crude, is controlled by Hyundai Heavy Industries which initially aimed to list it in South Korea as early as May but is now looking at the second half of the year, three sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Thursday. The delay follows the postponement of another Iran-linked IPO planned for Hong Kong and reflects widening fallout from the U.S.-led sanctions against Iran."


AP: "A federal judge has awarded $44.6 million from Iran to victims of the 1983 suicide truck-bombing attack on U.S. Marines in Beirut. But the money will be difficult to collect. U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth awarded the money Wednesday to two servicemen who were injured, Jeffery Paul O'Brien and Daniel Lane Gaffney, and their family members. The lawsuit claimed that Iran was involved in the attack, which killed 241 servicemen. Lamberth said the court 'applauds plaintiffs' persistent efforts to hold Iran accountable for its cowardly support of terrorism.'"

Human Rights

Guardian: "As part of Amnesty International's 2012 death penalty campaign the Guardian and animators from Sherbet tell the extraordinary story of Mohammad Mostafaei, a lawyer who has saved 20 of the 40 juveniles he has defended from execution in Iran. Actor Paul Bettany speaks the lawyer's words."

Foreign Affairs

Reuters: "The Syrian rebel fighter pulled a small copper-plated bullet from his trouser pocket, offering it as supporting evidence as he leveled charges of Iranian involvement in President Bashar al-Assad's army crackdown. 'These are what they are firing on us,' rebel fighter Ayham told Reuters outside the Reyhanli refugee camp in Turkey's southern Hatay province, where thousands of Syrians have fled. 'These are Iranian bullets. I have done my military service, I know the Syrian army does not use these bullets,' he said. It might be little more than a wild guess, but it says a lot about people's view of Iran hereabouts, one clearly shared in Western capitals. During a U.N. Security Council briefing last week, the United States and Britain accused Iran of shipping weapons to Syria they said were being used against the Syrian people."

NYT: "With his country unraveling in what looks like a sectarian civil war, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has been projecting himself as a confident and popular leader on the verge of victory, possibly, analysts said, borrowing lessons drawn from his only remaining regional ally, Iran, on how to resist outside pressure in a crisis. But a swirl of intense international diplomacy, a meeting of his fractious enemies in neighboring Turkey and speculation that his Iranian friends may be softening their support are presenting new challenges for Mr. Assad, one of the Arab world's longest-serving autocrats."

Opinion & Analysis

Mehdi Khalaji in WINEP: "Uncompromising rhetoric aside, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's recent decision to reappoint Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as head of Iran's Expediency Council could be a sign that he is preparing the regime for making concessions to settle the nuclear impasse. If Tehran does decide to negotiate seriously with the P5+1 (i.e., the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany), Khamenei would certainly need someone like Rafsanjani to shepherd the process. As economic pressure on Iran increases and its banking system begins to buckle, the regime may feel compelled to compromise within the next few months. Despite his consistent and successful efforts to marginalize Rafsanjani in the domestic political sphere, Khamenei surprisingly asked him to continue as head of the Expediency Council for a new term that began March 14. In doing so, the Supreme Leader allowed him to retain his only remaining political position. In 2010, Rafsanjani lost his post as head of the Assembly of Experts, which nominally oversees the Supreme Leader's activities and the succession process. The reappointment has seemingly little to do with the country's domestic politics. Khamenei has systematically weakened the constitutionally mandated Expediency Council in recent years. For example, he appointed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi to head the Board of Arbitration and Adjustment of Relations among the Three Branches of Government, a new extraconstitutional entity that can easily interfere with the Expediency Council's own duty to resolve intragovernmental differences. And in May 2011, he created the Islamic-Iranian Model of Progress Center, a body with a job description matching the Expediency Council's other main mandate of outlining the government's general policies. In short, neither Rafsanjani nor his council is likely to play an important role on the domestic front... More striking was Khamenei's reappointment of two significant council members: Hassan Rouhani, former chief nuclear negotiator and head of the Supreme Council for National Security, and Gholam Reza Aqa Zadeh, former head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Both are very close to Rafsanjani, and neither has spoken out against the opposition or vocally supported Khamenei during the tenure; in fact, Aqa Zadeh had close ties to Mousavi. Therefore, removing them would not have surprised anyone or had any significant political repercussions. Their continued presence on the council reinforces the theory that Khamenei is using the appointments to preserve the foreign policy option of nuclear compromise. Indeed, Rafsanjani, Rouhani, and Aqa Zadeh would make excellent interlocutors with the West in the event of negotiations. Their positions on the Expediency Council mean that the body could be charged with ending the nuclear impasse, thereby allowing the Supreme Leader to avoid responsibility for the compromises necessary to reach such a deal... Whether by choice or force, Ayatollah Khamenei may be defining a new role for Rafsanjani and his remaining supporters on the Expediency Council. Although Rafsanjani will continue to be excluded from any significant role in domestic politics, he could play an important part in potential nuclear negotiations if the regime decides to compromise. Still, as long as Khamenei remains confidently on top of the nuclear program and the mounting effects of international sanctions, Tehran's existing, inflexible policy will continue, leaving Rafsanjani no room to reshape the regime's nuclear posture."

CRS: "Several published reports indicate that top Israeli decisionmakers now are seriously considering whether to order a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, and if so, when. Twice in Israel's history, it has conducted air strikes aimed at halting or delaying what Israeli policymakers believed to be efforts to acquire nuclear weapons by a Middle Eastern state-destroying Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981 and a facility the Israelis identified as a reactor under construction in Syria in 2007. Today, Israeli officials generally view the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran as an unacceptable threat to Israeli security-with some viewing it as an existential threat. This report analyzes key factors that may influence current Israeli political decisions relating to a possible strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. These include, but are not limited to, the views of and relationships among Israeli leaders; the views of the Israeli public; U.S., regional, and international stances and responses as perceived and anticipated by Israel; Israeli estimates of the potential effectiveness and risks of a possible strike; and responses Israeli leaders anticipate from Iran and Iranian-allied actors-including Hezbollah and Hamas-regionally and internationally. For Congress, the potential impact-short- and long-term-of an Israeli decision regarding Iran and its implementation is a critical issue of concern. By all accounts, such an attack could have considerable regional and global security, political, and economic repercussions, not least for the United States, Israel, and their bilateral relationship. It is unclear what the ultimate effect of a strike would be on the likelihood of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. The current Israeli government, President Barack Obama, and many Members of Congress have shared concerns about Iran's nuclear program. They appear to have a range of views on how best to address those shared concerns. Iran maintains that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful, civilian energy purposes, and U.S. intelligence assessments say that Iran has not made a decision to build nuclear weapons. However, Iran continues to enrich uranium in militarily hardened sites and questions remain about its nuclear weapons capabilities and intentions."

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons. UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

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